Big D runs into bigger 'D'
Ravens aid playoff run with fourth shutout, one short of NFL mark
The most defiant defense in the NFL can't say the P-word, but it can use the S-word.
And the Ravens speak the language of shutouts eloquently.
Ravaging a once-proud Dallas Cowboys' offense, 27-0, before 69,416 at PSINet Stadium, the Ravens' defense yesterday climbed another rung on a ladder only a few have dared to scale.
Their fourth shutout of the regular season is the second-most in the NFL's Super Bowl era, one behind the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Their eighth win of the season - tying the franchise high - leaves them positioned well for the stretch run to the postseason. Indeed, if the playoffs started today, the 8-4 Ravens would claim the AFC's top wild-card seed and Baltimore's first home playoff game since 1977.
"For us to win in the dominating fashion we did says something about us," said coach Brian Billick, who last week banned all discussion within Ravens ranks about the playoffs.
"This is a special group, and they have earned the right to talk about shutouts."
The domination was so complete, the game was never in doubt once the Ravens opened a 17-0 first-half lead.
It was so thorough that rookie running back Jamal Lewis had his third 100-yard game of the season with four minutes left in the first half.
It was so convincing on national TV that few teams will relish a postseason matchup against this defense.
"It was a great statement to blank the Cowboys like we did," said linebacker Jamie Sharper. "It shows we're ready for all comers, that we can beat anybody on a given day, that we can dominate any team."
The offense rolled up a franchise-record 250 rushing yards - 187 by Lewis in a powerful performance - and the defense allowed Dallas to cross midfield just three times.
The Cowboys (4-7) never got any closer to the goal line than the Baltimore 28-yard line. That third-quarter opportunity dissolved, however, when rookie kicker Tim Seder was wide right and short on a 46-yard field-goal attempt.
Outgained 479-192 in total yards, the Cowboys suffered their first shutout since Sept. 15, 1991, a 24-0 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.